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O Extravaganza! The Great Extrav Reunion Weekend & Capping Revue Revival [1993]

O Extravaganza! — Extravaganza Disease Remains Alive and Well in the Capital

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O Extravaganza!

Extravaganza Disease Remains Alive and Well in the Capital

O Extravaganza! masthead

O Extravaganza! dir Bill Sheat, George Andrews, Deidre Tarrant, Victoria University Memorial Theatre

As a member of three Extravs in the mid-50s I can remember the arguments about Extravs getting too big and too much like musical comedies (as we called musicals then), which is not surprising when all the tunes came from Broadway.

The Extrav reunion at the weekend used the more modest style of intimate revue with which Extravs first started in 1906 and returned to in the 60s. They disappeared altogether in the serious 70s and were revived in 1988 by David Geary with Big Mother is Watching You.

O Extravaganza! on Saturday brought back to me how amateurish Extravs were. Saturday's opening chorus was rough around the edges, scripts or parts of them were clearly visible in many sketches and songs, and there was the usual muck-up at curtain call.

But "Extrav is not so much a way of life as a hereditary disease," and those afflicted in the audience were prepared to forgive anything on the grounds that they were suffering from "Blenheimers" too. Not that the theatre was soggy with nostalgia; Extrav's irreverence for most things would not allow such an emotion to mar the occasion.

The non-stop revue traced the history of Extravs from what the detailed programme called Old Age through Middle Age to New Age and This Age.

Geoff Datson sang the famous Rollo the Ravaging Roman from the 1938 Extrav and many in the audience sang along too. From the 1948 show came the first drag sketch of the evening: a Miss New Zealand contest with a character called Miss Beehavon from Christchurch. Bill Sheat and Rosemary Norman sang I Can't Get a Girl to Practise On from 1950 and then there was that staple of all Extravs, The Male Ballet.

The moment the dancers appeared the audience went wild. Most were reduced to paroxysms of laughter as a fat bumble bee tried to fertilise in waltz time a bunch of beefy flowers.

One current varsity student who has never seen an Extrav thought that the whole thing was "surreal, bizarre." He has a clean bill of health and does not understand.

The New Age (the 60s) ushered in a degree of sophistication in the writing and performances that was, I'd guess, only intermittently evident in earlier Extravs. The professionalism of Roger Hall, Dave Smith and Steve Whitehouse as both writers and performers was again available for all to see, sadly, for only two performances.

Dave Smith reminded us of his brilliant skills as a pianist, rhymer and skewerer of politicians (Geoff of a 1000 Hours and Bill's Song), and he and Steve Whitehouse returned briefly to the flea-pit called The Roxy and reminisced about the juicy bits of violence in the movies shown there.

I don't often cry from laughing, but Roger Hall got me going on Saturday. His Randy from a third rate touring company of Ladies' Night performing a strip had the tears rolling down my cheeks. For a brief moment we were allowed to revisit the legendary Extravs of the 60s and the late night revues at Downstage, and for this much, thanks. And it was good to see This Age carry on the spirit of Extravs with a funny song about how wonderful Lockwood Smith thinks he looks. The disease is still healthy.